Students Abroad Struggle to Find Housing

Residence Life is facing a housing crunch for next semester as 104 of the 120 students studying abroad are returning to the College and seeking campus housing. In previous years, the number of returning students was closer to the low fifties.

“We usually don’t have a housing crunch in the spring,” said Joanne Goldwater, Associate Dean of Students. Housing problems typically occur in the fall, since the exact number of incoming students cannot be predicted.
Though other students are returning to campus for various reasons, those students currently abroad are facing the brunt of the problem. There have been several cases of miscommunication and the general problems with contacting people in remote areas with limited or no internet access.

Sophomore Lauren Jacoby, studying in Thailand, had trouble finding a place to stay. Although she currently has housing, it took awhile to figure out where she was living next semester. “…the housing list was sent out while the Thai Studies program and the Asian Connections program were on a village home-stay [without] wireless which put us at a bit of a disadvantage [compared] to other returning study abroad students,” she wrote. She attempted to find a place to live in Queen Anne before a suite opened up.

Jacoby said that despite the problems, Residence Life has been helpful. “[Assistant Director of Residence Life Kelly Smolinsky] said if I was trying to coordinate something to keep her in the loop and she would help as best she could on her end — no real complaints on her end, I think she is doing the best she can with what she has to work with.”

There have been problems with housing in the Gambia as well. Several students there didn’t receive the initial email with a list of vacancies. Another student, studying in Thailand, didn’t receive the same email until he contacted Residence Life a second time. Several students studying abroad had problems finding housing upon arrival, as well.

“With 120 students studying abroad, there were one or two whose information didn’t get where it needed to go,” said Smolinsky, Assistant Director of Residence Life. “The other piece of it is I’m new in this position. I started in June…I wasn’t sure what the communication had been like.” A student might have been on her predecessor’s radar, “but that information didn’t travel over so well.”

The housing situation for spring semester appears to be worse right now than it actually will be. “People aren’t telling us that they are leaving,” said Goldwater, so Residence Life doesn’t know all the spaces that are available. “Of course, some people may be released through housing for…judicial reasons, academic dismissals…we know we’re going to be getting some more beds opening, [but] we don’t know when or where,” said Goldwater. Still, “The people who are going to transfer are typically first or second year students…and most of them live in the traditional halls.” The juniors who are studying abroad prefer to live in suites, townhouses or apartments, “understandably so,” said Goldwater.

Residence Life is considering different ways to relieve the housing crunch. “If students are willing to take a third person into their room, we’ll give them that $40-per-person-per-week credit,” said Goldwater. Corner rooms in the traditional residence halls can be converted into triples as well as some of the double rooms on North Campus. “We have in the past actually put a fifth person in some of the townhouses,” she said.
Residence Life has also rented a house about a mile from campus and is looking for people interested in living there. “We’re hoping that these are students who are community service-oriented and would be willing to work with the Christmas in April auction,” said Goldwater.

Students who are not planning on living on campus next semester are encouraged to contact the Office of Residence Life as soon as possible, and “students who have a vacancy in their room need to decide in a timely manner how to fill it,” said Smolinsky.

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